Last week, I had the pleasure of reviewing business plans at a formal competition for one of my favorite women's business organizations in Boston. The Center for Women and Enterprise (www.cweonline.org) whose mission is to empower women to become economically self sufficient and prosperous thru entreprenuership, was finishing up another one of their fabulous training classes and I was to review and make comments about the plans presented.
This business plan review came at the end of a 13 week training session that CWE sponsors to teach women (and yes, there were a few men in the room) various aspects of entrepreneurship. My task was to review the business plans for viablity and give some comments/suggestions to the budding entreprenuers as they looked to get funding for the business or as they began to launch their ventures.
What I found was amazing. These women (and men) had so much passion for their new businesses and it came thru loud and clear in their delivery. What they may have lacked in previous business ownership or professional business endeavors was more than made up for their drive and desire to see their own businesses succeed.
While listening to the presentations, I found myself thinking about my most successful clients and how they completely understand their market, their target customers and their competition. The successful retailers I work with understand how critical the marketing and brand message is to a profitable business and that the marketing efforts for any business must be painstakingly detailed to have an effective outcome.
While some of the plans I reviewed were quite detailed, many of them were light in their planning for the marketing of their business- They missed the message that all the successful retailers I work with know--effective marketing requires planning and a sustained effort in order to succeed.
I offered a few suggestions to the group about how to improve their overall research and marketing efforts for their businesses-
1) Do a good job of researching your industry-- know the business trends-- is it going to get bigger in the next 5 years? If not, shift your niche-- nobody should be entering into a declining market-- but know what you are getting in to --
2) KNOW YOUR COMPETITION- and this includes the INTERNET-- it's not enough to know all the local businesses in the surrounding towns-- the internet is a competitor for your customers retail dollars and you must be aware of pricing thru this method of retail operation.
3) Good marketing doesn't have to cost a fortune today- in fact, it's less than ever before- a good email marketing campaign can reach 2000 or 20000 potential customers for less than $150 per month! How about that for saving on postage! Find out how.
4) A good marketing campaign must be delivered repeatedly to be successful- I can't tell you how many of the business plans I reviewed said they were going to run ONE big grand opening ad-- If that is all you are going to do, don't waste your money- hire a guy with a large sign to stand out on the road and flag down passers by. That will do more than running one ad in the newspaper one time! It needs to be a coordinated effort-- and for a sustained period of time to be really effective.
I could go on, but I think you get the message- Don't make the same mistakes with your business-- plan now for your business to succeed- focus on a comprehensive brand and marketing message that will target the consumers you WANT and not spend money on a campaign that misses the mark--
Check out all the great classes at CWE in the month of June- if you live near Boston, Providence or Worcester- add this organization to your network today!